[Published 5 January 2012]
UNESCO’s deficit has skyrocketed from an estimated $120 million to $167 million for 2012-2013 as a result of its decision to admit Palestine as its 195th member in breach of UNESCO’s own Constitution.
In addition UNESCO has lost another $65 million in American dues for 2011 - automatically withheld by the United States as required by domestic legislation existing on its statute books since the 1990’s.
UNESCO continues to refuse to review or to justify the legality of its decision to admit Palestine - which if reversed - could immediately restore this massive shortfall in its revenue and enable the resumption of essential programs suspended or curtailed as a result of this financial black hole.
Those 87 members of UNESCO who did not vote for Palestine’s admission to UNESCO must be increasingly alarmed at this blow out in the deficit - and also at two highly embarrassing issues involving UNESCO and Palestine - one of which came to UNESCO’s notice in December and the other which is set to explode in February.
The December issue has led to UNESCO withdrawing funding from a Palestinian children’s magazine - Zayzafouna - published by an NGO under the same name and coming under the patronage of the Palestinian National Commission of UNESCO - a national body set up by the Palestinian Authority.
The February edition of Zayzafouna contained an article by a 10-year-old girl in which Hitler was quoted by her as stating that he:
“killed [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who wreak havoc on Earth”
In finding this statement may be interpreted as an apology for the holocaust and contrary to UNESCO’s constitutional mandate and values - UNESCO declared :
“UNESCO supported the publication of three issues of the Zayzafouna Magazine six months after the February 2011 issue. The support was provided for these issues following agreement with the editors that they would focus on building greater appreciation amongst Palestinians for their heritage and culture. They were to open the way for positive dialogue aimed at overcoming the consequences of the Middle East conflict, and to fight against stereotypes that may be conducive to violence. It was UNESCO’s intention to foster a positive view of Palestinian heritage based on the values of tolerance and UNESCO’s mandate of building peace in the minds of men and women. This vision guides all of UNESCO’s activities, and we urge all partners to work in this direction.
UNESCO is shocked and dismayed by the content of the February issue, and has requested more detailed information and clarification from the editors of the magazine and the Palestinian Authority.
UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO’s name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.
The Organization, which is deeply committed to the development and promotion of education about the Holocaust, disassociates itself from any statement that is counter to its founding principles and goal of building tolerance in the full respect for human rights and human dignity. “
UNESCO’s approach to this outrage was principled and undoubtedly correct.
However any concern for complying with UNESCO’s “constitutional mandate” seems to have gone out the window when the charge is made that Palestine has not been constitutionally elected to UNESCO.
UNESCO - in announcing Palestine’s admission to membership incorrectly stated:
“Admission to UNESCO for states that are not members of the United Nations requires a recommendation by the Organization’s Executive Board and a two thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference of Member States present and voting (abstentions are not considered as votes). “
The words “present and voting” do not appear in Article II (2) - the article that expressly deals with applications for full membership.
However those words do appear in Article II (3) - the article which deals with applications for associate membership.
The majority vote required in each case is therefore very different - more stringent for full membership and less stringent for associate membership.
Whilst the majority vote - 107 - would have been sufficient to admit Palestine as an Associate Member - it was insufficient to admit Palestine to full membership for which the majority vote required was 129.
The 87 members who did not vote for Palestine’s admission should themselves be asking for an urgent review. - given the substantially increased loss in funding just announced and the use of UNESCO funds by Palestine for unauthorized and morally offensive purposes.
I am still seeking answers from UNESCO - but it appears they continue to be reluctant to review or justify the provisions of the Constitution that enabled Palestine to apparently slip through the cracks and join UNESCO’s ranks.
The issue set to erupt next month - as revealed by Giulio Meotti - involves Palestine applying for UNESCO World Heritage listing for the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron - a site holy to both Jews and Moslems.
Khaled Osaily - Hebron’s Mayor said recently:
“It’s a mosque!, You don’t have to be an architect to see it! Will you allow me to pray in a synagogue or a church?”.
Several days ago, the Palestinian Rehabilitation Committee raised the UNESCO flag next to the national ‘Palestinian’ flag in front of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Osaily - just returned from Paris where he took part in a UNESCO conference at the Institut du Monde Arabe in support of adding Hebron’s holy sites to the World Heritage List stated:
“We started a campaign three years ago to add Hevron to the UNESCO list”, . Now the request is ready and we will present it to UNESCO in February”.
I have started an on-line petition to help gauge the strength of public reaction to getting UNESCO to review what appears to be a clear breach of its own Constitution - which already has had - and will have - serious and ongoing financial, operational and political consequences.
490 people have already signed the petition in the last 4 days. I invite you and your social network to do likewise and circulate it to others to follow suit.
Those who don’t live by the law are destined to get their just desserts at the hands of the law.
UNESCO needs to come clean and review or justify its questionable decision - or continue to wither on the vine.